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Honestly speaking, I had always associated a vegan being Buddhist. Call me ignorant, but you will forgive me after reading the next paragraph *wink*

My first exposure of a full-fledged vegan meal was when I did not know I had a vegan meal at all! How ironic was that? Then again, it was eons ago. I was a little girl sitting at a big round table, surrounded by adults I could vaguely recollect their faces except for my late Dad and an aunt or two and an adopted cousin and her biological family. Everyone was speaking Henghua, and Mandarin and a smattering of Hokkien and Malay. I remembered eating a cold plate as starter and mains consisting of lo han chai, braised mushrooms with broccoli, yam basket with pieces of ‘meat’, slices of ‘meat’ in orange sauce that tasted like duck meat, whole fish with edible bones. All the dishes were intricately and artistically presented. I was not a good eater when I was a young girl growing up, but I remembered those dishes were simply sublime. Although the tastes seemed quite linear throughout, the textures were rather interesting: chewy, meaty, spongy, sweet, savoury, tangy, tasty; and yet there were no real meats, only mock meats! Yup, that was my first intro to a vegan meal, prepared for a group of people who were mostly Buddhist at the time.

>> Fast forward anno 2013, Belgium >>

On 5th June, 2013, the United Nations celebrated World Environment Day (WED). The company where I work, co-celebrated the year’s theme “Think. Eat. Save”.  A colleague who is a vegan was the best ambassador to present that year’s theme at one of the meetings.

And guess what? I was not being introduced, but more so, re-introduced to yet another full-fledged vegan lunch, albeit on a different level! I must say the vegan burger was a surprise discovery. I have written a post about it, here.

In case you are wondering, nope, my colleague is NOT a Buddhist. She became a vegan due to both dietary and ethical reasons.

Vegan is the New Black!

This phrase is inspired by the opening title of Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. While the 2nd part of the phrase, “the new black” is very common in pop culture, the first part of the phrase, “Vegan”, is the suddenly trendy thing that is happening of late. If you don’t already know, being vegan is not at all a new thing. It was founded in 1944 !!

Loving the Loving Hut

Ever since I had my first bite of that vegan burger, I was on the lookout for that restaurant in Leuven. Loving Hut is a vegan restaurant chain with several outlets worldwide. I’m glad Leuven is one of them! I have brought my younger son there with me on several occasions and he likes the food there, so much so, that it becomes a domino effect. In turn he brought his friends to lunch there, too.

Here’re what I had with my son during one of our visits to Loving Hut. All organic and vegan burgers with vegan “bitterballen” and “calamares”

Awesome!



My favourite remains the refreshingly colourful and tasty, neptunus salad.



Oh by the way, it was at Loving Hut that I got to know of Dr RM, a Kerala born doctor in Ayurveda and yoga therapy. Although I have never been to any of her yoga classes, I have enjoyed a good Ayurvedic full body massage from her.

During one of the massage sessions with Dr RM, she mentioned about giving an Ayurvedic Vegan workshop (yes, she called it a workshop) when the weather was warmer. She sounded extremely enthusiastic about it and even sharing her plan with me. Lucky for her, I’m a good listener 🙂

And doubly lucky for her, I told her to count me in when the workshop day arrived, as I was game – for the food, in particular. Lol!

Workshop Day

28th May arrived. It was a lovely sunny day. I drove to Dr RM’s house where the workshop was. It was my first Vegan workshop, hence, I had not the clue what to expect.

Although I have been to Dr RM’s house on several occasions for the Ayurvedic massage, I have never been into her living room, let alone, her kitchen. It felt like walking into another dimension with our bare feet et al. The living room was unadorned and pure minimalistic, definitely not in a negative sense.

Yoga Before Vegan

We were a small group of 4 participants. Dr RM gave a brief explanation of yoga after which she recited a simple mantra to anchor our attention to our breathing while the calming and Zen meditation music was playing.

A-U-M!

We “woke up” with a pleasant serving of aromatic mug of freshly brewed warm Ayurvedic chai. We were in comfort zone, literally speaking.

Ready? Steady…. Cook!

For the next 2 hours or so, I took down mental notes of the vegan cooking process through the photos I captured from my iPhone.

My challenge? To replicate the Vegan lunch in the comfort of my own kitchen *wink*

Okay, just let your imagination run wild with you, with the following photos…

It was supposed to be an interactive cooking workshop but due to time constraint, it ended up with Dr RM preparing and cooking all the dishes herself!

She whipped up 4 vegan recipes while explaining the choice of ingredients used – Ayurvedic mung bean soup, Ayurvedic Chapatis or Rotis, Ayurvedic chutney and kheer or rice pudding with saffron, cardamom and cashew nuts.

What a Feast!

It was worth the wait. A simple, unadulterated vegan meal that’s fresher than FRESH! Couldn’t get any fresher than that.

What more can I say!

My Challenge…

After seeing Dr RM toiling away with the mixing, stirring, kneading and cooking, I thought, “nah, too time consuming!“, so I opted for the extreme alternative.

Yup, I turned to my Thermie for help 😉

With the mental notes in my head, I converted the drudgery of preparing the Ayurvedic vegan lunch into an expeditious culinary journey in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Vegan Sunday with a Twist


My Ayurvedic Chapatis

  • 1 kg potatoes (I used “Jazzy” creamy potatoes)
  • 750 g organic wheat “atta” flour (I used organic spelt flour plus extra for kneading)
  • 1.5 tsp nigella seeds
  • 40g chopped fresh coriander
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I boiled the potatoes (skin on) as per the BCB and peeled the skin when still warm but not hot. Then I set them aside to cool before mashing the potatoes to the texture I wanted. Then I added the flour bit by bit, nigella seeds, 1 Tbsp coconut oil and salt. I mixed the mixture until a dough is formed. I turned the dial to “knead” for 2 minutes, and added 1 Tbsp coconut oil if too dry, or more flour if still wet. The key here is trial and error and stop when you are happy with the consistency you want.

Next, I tipped the dough onto a floured bowl and leave the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes. After half an hour, I kneaded the dough again by hand on floured surface. For the amount of dough mixture, I was able to make 25 equal-sized balls. I flattened each ball with a floured rolling pin and rolled each ball into disc.


I used two green pans to speed the roti making process. Each pan was pre-heated and drizzled with a tiny bit of coconut oil on medium high heat. The Chapatis were cooked when they puffed in the centre. I just flipped the roti over to cook on both sides until little brown specks became visible. As you can see, my rotis were not of uniform sizes and form. I like it that way as it looked more home-style 😀

My Ayurvedic Chutney

  • 180 g raisins secs
  • 180 g raisins blanc
  • 200 g x 2 dates
  • A palmful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I soaked the raisins and dates in water overnight. With the amount of raisins and dates (water removed) and mint I dumped in the TM bowl, I made sure not to go above speed 5 to avoid the TM blades from getting stuck. You can continue by using a wooden spatula to free the area around the blades. Continue blending until you reached the desired texture. I prefer my chutney with a bit of texture.

For smoother puréed-like texture, blend in smaller batches.


Dates and raisins are sweet, so you know the drill. Pep it up with some freshly milled Himalayan rock salt and cayenne or paprika powder. Et voilà!

My Ayurvedic Soup

  • 400 g split mung beans
  • 1,500 g water plus 500 g water
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 5 g garlic (sorry, I can’t go without this herb!)
  • 80 g onion (ditto)
  • Ginger
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Himalayan rock salt, to taste
  • 25 g Coconut oil


Tempering

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Roughly chopped Spinach leaves
  • Coconut oil


Garnishing

  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • Crispy fried onions (optional)

Wash the mung beans in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the mung beans for at least 4 hours or overnight


Mince the garlic, onion and ginger upto speed 5 for 3 seconds. Add coconut oil and sauté with turmeric powder for 3mins/ 120 C/ speed 1.

From the overnight-soaked mung beans, weigh 500g of the soaked beans and transfer to the TM bowl. Add 1,500g water. Cook for 20 mins/ 120 C/ R/ Spoon/ Half MC

After 10 minutes, watch out for the foams floating on the surface. Pause and remove the frothy surface. Reduce the temperature to 100C/ Half MC. Cook further until the mung beans are soft and tender. Transfer the soup to a bigger soup pot. Add 500 g water. Boil for another 5 minutes.

And of course, season to taste!

Prepare the tempering by heating some coconut oil and mustard seeds in a frying pan. As soon as the seeds start popping, add the cumin seeds and roughly chopped spinach leaves. Gently pour the tempered ingredients into the soup. Season to taste before serving. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and crispy fried onions (optional)


Our Vegan Lunch was ready to serve!

My Verdict?

I loved Dr RM’s Chapatis. Her rotis puffed up beautifully in the centre. She used plain wheat flour while I used organic Spelt flour. That could be the reason why my rotis did not puff too much and a bit more dense, too. The mixing and kneading in the TM were a breeze but it was the rolling out of the dough into discs and the waiting time to get the rotis cooked went by at annoying snail speed. With my boys popping in and out of the kitchen and incessantly asking “is the food ready yet?” didn’t help one bit at all 😦

I loved my Ayurvedic soup the most. Could it be the un-vegan ingredients of minced garlic, onion and crispy fried shallots that made the world of difference? That’s the Twist, I meant 😉

The guys in my household are not fan of beans and lentils, but surprisingly, they liked the soup.

To be honest, Dr RM’s soup was very bland. It could do with some pinches of extra salt but we were all too ravenous, and gulped all the soup down. Lol!

Our Ayurvedic chutneys were on par. Hers was extremely smooth, more like purée and mine was more relish-y. I prefer my chutney with some texture, hence by not pulsing on high speed for too long was, for me, perfect. If you’re wondering if the chutney was too sweet because of the dates, well, it was on the sweet side but not overly sweet due to the overnight soaking. The slight tartness from the raisins and the cool and refreshing mint, Himalayan salt and cayenne or paprika powder balanced the flavour of the chutney quite flawlessly.

I asked the 3 participants what their favourite dish was. All 3 pointed to the Ayurvedic chutney and the Chapatis 😉

By the way, I did not replicate Dr RM’s dessert as that was my least favourite dish. Her rice pudding did not set in the fridge and it turned out pretty soupy. The flavours were alright.

Will I make these again? Yes! Without a doubt, but on a smaller scale. I will use plain atta flour for the Chapatis. The Ayurvedic soup will be on a future lunch menu. Bookmarked! I will make the Ayurvedic chutney 2 ways – puréed and relished and will add some chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice for extra tartness.

If you have never had an Ayurvedic vegan meal before, you may consider trying this out and judge it for yourself.

I’m not a Vegan but I loved it, however, it’s not something I will eat everyday. Too many restrictions and it’s just not possible for me to abstain from a good bowl of kolo mee or char siu pao 😀

Oh by the way, Dr RM gave away a try-out sample pack of the Ayurvedic chai after the workshop.

I brewed it immediately when I got home.

Mmmmm…. yummy!

Zen….

This masala chai is a keeper 😉

Have a Blessed Sunday!

Cheers!

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Like the Brazilian pão de queijo, these bite-sized crispy snail snack are super addictive.


Down Memory Lane …

When I was a kid, Mum used to concoct creative snacks for our afternoon tea. My siblings and I were always looking forward to 4 pm’s mystery nibbles made with love by Mum.

By the way, I have always loved the savoury snacks Mum made. I know I will not be able to replicate Mum’s kueh siput (snail cookie or snack or crisps), but I remembered most of the ingredients that went in there. While Mum always guesstimated the ingredients in her cookings, meaning she never had any exact measurements in the dishes she prepared, I tried my best to come up with some measurements, especially so when I started cooking with my Thermomix. With  the built-in weighing scale, I was forced to come up with a more or less precise measurement for the ingredients. 

Oh by the way, Mum deep fried her “snails” while I baked mine 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised by the result!  

Ingredients-

Fermented Beancurd and Fresh Coriander

  • 110 g SRF 
  • 35 g tapioca flour
  • 35 g melted butter
  • 56 g egg
  • 15 g fermented beancurd
  • Half veg stock cube
  • A pinch of brown sugar
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Freshly milled white pepper
  • 20 g fresh coriander, finely chopped 

Method –

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 165 deg C
  2. Weigh all ingredients in the TM bowl. Mix for 20 sec/ sp 1.5
  3. Knead for 2 mins. The dough may or may not be too wet; if a bit wet to handle, add some SRF. Continue to knead for 1 min. The dough should not stick to the bowl or the blades. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl.
  4. Pinch a small portion of the dough and spread a thin layer on the teeth of the fork, the right side up. Press gently and roll upward to form a pattern of a snail
  5. Bake for 22 to 25 mins until golden brown. Note the timing of doneness depends on the type of oven you own. I baked mine for 24 mins.


My Verdict?

My sons had never eaten this snack before, hence, were the best guinea pigs in providing an honest feedback. I placed a bowl of the baked “snails” on the kitchen table. My younger son who was upstairs then, came down and said he smelled chicken soup, whilst my older son said he smelled baked banana cake. Hmmm… What an interesting and contrasting combos! When they both ate the kueh siput, they said it tasted like cheese crisps, BUT there was no cheese! They kept popping the “snail” in their mouths.  Yup… Very addictive nibbles, indeed. 

When I told my sons that there was no cheese, but fermented tofu, they couldn’t be bothered but kept taking one nibble after another. The “snails” were slowly diminishing. The only way to recuperate the volume was to make some more!! And I did exactly that, the following day …

Oh by the way, I used a pizza crisper tray and a baguette baking tray to bake the snails. They crisped perfectly.

To be honest, I loved my Mum’s deep fried kueh siput, but I’m glad I have found a healthier and ridiculously hassle-free alternative of indulgence 😉

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare Week 19, hosted by Kirsty of Hijacked By Twins


Happy new week!

Cheers!

The weather has been amazing the past week. Mother’s Day was exceptionally SUN-TASTE-TIC! Perfect for any al fresco get-together. And that’s exactly what we did last Sunday at the restaurant. We opted to sit on the terrace, with parasols just to cover our heads from the scorching afternoon sun

The dishes we ordered were refreshingly light using fresh seasonal vegetables. We noticed a common ingredient on every plate. Asparagus!!

Hubby looked at me and I, him. Immediately, I read his mind… Okay, okay, we have not had asperges op vlaamse wijze or asperges à la flamande or (white) asparagus cooked the Flemish way in a LONG time. He’s actually right. The last time I made this dish was in 2012! Boy that was eons ago. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

A Healthier Version

White asparagus is hugely popular in continental northwestern Europe ie BE, NL, FR, DE, AT, CH, TR, IT, ES and PL. It is a spring vegetable, hence is freshest from late April to June. Hubby was persistent to have the dish again and he actually bought a bunch of super fresh 1kg-pack of the herbaceous, perennial plant. Did I have a choice? Erm… Don’t think so… Duh!

By the way, I have posted a recipe of this dish on this post, Asperges op Vlaamse wijze following the recipe of one of my favourite Belgian TV chefs, Jeroen Meus. To be honest, I like the dish, BUT the amount of butter used in the recipe scares me LOTS! The original recipe for 4 pax calls for minimum 300 g farm butter and 6 hard-boiled eggs. In this recipe, I have reduced the butter to 120g with 4 hard-boiled eggs. A fairly huge reduction, but we all loved the end result. I have also tweaked Jeroen’s method slightly.

Here’s the out-turn…

How I did it …

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 kg white asparagus (ca 21 to 22 spears)
  • 120 g unsalted farm butter
  • 4 free-range eggs, hard-boiled 
  • Fleur de sel, to taste
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • A bunch of parsley 
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste 

Cooking asparagus is not difficult. The trick is to place the peeled asparagus (check out my recipe here on how to peel the asparagus correctly) in a large pot of cold water with a pinch of sea salt. It is important to use enough water to immerse and cover the asparagus completely. Heat the pot over medium heat and bring the water to a boil. Let the water simmer or bubble for a moment and immediately remove the pot from the heat. Allow the asparagus to rest for a few minutes in the warm water, depending on the quantity and size of the asparagus. I accounted for 10 minutes for 22 asparagus spears. Do the taste test to check for doneness. It should be crisp tender, cooked but not overly cooked. Remove the asparagus from the water and drain them on a clean kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, boil 4 eggs. Once boiled, immediately transfer the eggs to cold water. Peel the eggs and mash them lightly. Do not purée the eggs. Then mix finely chopped parsely while adding salt and pepper to taste. Grate some nutmeg and mix the egg mixture gently. Set aside.


Add 120g farm (unsalted) butter in a pan and let it gently melt over low heat. This Flemish dish requires using only clarified butter, meaning the white milk residue from the melted butter must be removed. Keep the clarified butter on a very low heat.

To serve, place 4 to 5 warm asparagus on a plate, then scoop a chunk of the egg mixture across the centre of the cooked asparagus and then drizzle some clarified butter over the egg mixture. 

Ta-dah!


My Verdict?

The original recipe says to add the egg mixture into the clarified butter and mix gently. I omitted this step. Instead, I drizzled the clarified butter over the egg mixture separately. That way, less butter was used and consumed per portion and the egg mixture was not a mushy mass. We could still see the eggs and the freshly chopped parsley with a light drizzle of the clarified butter. Sorry, Jeroen, I prefer my new-found method, and will stick with it. Without a doubt, thanks for the inspiration you have given me by unlocking the Belgian kitchen and putting big smileys on the faces of my other half and 2 boys.

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare week 19, hosted by Kirsty of Hijacked By Twins


This post is also linked to Tea Time Treats for the month of May 2016, hosted by The Hedgecombers and Lavender and Lovage


And to Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Happy Mid-Week!

Cheers!